I have fond memories of my early years in Kanpur, India. Situated on the banks of the Ganges, Kanpur was as fertile as it could be. Our home had crisp green lawns with roses of every hue. My favorite pastime in the summer months was counting the number of tomatoes on the vine, which stretched across the side walls of our house. I remember admiring the red plump fruit against the faded brown wall. While my dad brought home red juicy apples and healthy bunches of grapes, mom would cut fresh tomatoes and sprinkle a little sugar on them for us to eat. This was when I fell in love with fruits.
My later years were spent in Chennai. Many an afternoon, my brother and I would climb the mango tree in our back yard. We would pick the tangy yet sweet mangoes and eat them with a bit of salt and chili powder, for that extra zing. We had two different kinds of mango trees in our house, but my eye was always on my neighbor’s tree which had a mango variety called “Parrot’s Nose” (Kili Mukku Mangai in Tamil). These were by far the best crunchy mangoes we could find, a key ingredient in our favorite roadside snack on the Marina Beach in Chennai, calledThengai, Mangai, Pattani Chundal—a mixture of crunchy mango, coconut scrapings, green peas, and spices.
There were a few weeks during the summer when you could smell our house from a mile away. A relative from Kerala would bring a huge jackfruit and oh boy, did it stink! All we ate was jackfruit this and jackfruit that, with a few mango dishes thrown in. Finally, my mom would finish off with a jackfruit jam and our home (and its smells) would get back to normal.
My grand mother taught me that fruits are natural cleansers, and eating fruits everyday helps remove toxins from the body. We Californians are blessed with an abundance of fresh fruits year round. When my boys were younger, my Wednesday morning ritual was to head to the Farmer’s Market and stroll the aisles, sampling and buying freshly picked fruits. All the colors and tastes were a feast for the eyes and the palate.
You can eat fruits as they are. They can also make many dishes more interesting. I like a ripe banana as much as a banana flambé. My all time favorite dessert is pineapple upside cake, and I can pretty much eat anything with my mother-in-law’s sweet mango thokku (pickle).
Here are some fruit recipes to add to your menu and to entice your kids with a healthy alternative to yet another chocolate chip cookie or cheetos. Enjoy!
This is a versatile recipe which is always a crowd pleaser. You can be creative with what you add, to fit your cuisine preference.
1 ripe mango, sliced into cubes/strips
1 corn, kernels separated
1/2 English cucumber, sliced into cubes/strips
2 sweet peppers, sliced into rings
1/2 lime, juiced
1 green chili
2 tablespoons of cilantro, chopped
salt to taste
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, refrigerate, and serve.
Variations: My Indian version has toasted cumin and/or sprouted moong beans. You can turn it into a Mexican mango salsa with grilled fish. Try it as a Thai green papaya salad with mangoes, by adding mango to shredded raw papaya along with thai chilies, lime, and a few roasted cashews.
A Touch of Fruit (Salad)
When I go to my favorite fruit store, “De Martinis” in Los Altos, Calif., I can’t resist buying their fennel bulbs and jicama. This salad is simple yet sophisticated with the addition of sweet red navel oranges and tangy dried cranberries.
1 small jicama, peeled and cut into match sticks
1 small fennel bulb, sliced and cut into strips
1 red navel orange, peeled and segmented, juice reserved
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons Orange Muscat vinegar (Trader Joe’s)
1 tablespoon red navel orange juice, reserved
1 small thai chili, seeded and chopped
salt to taste
2 tablespoons pistachios, roasted and chopped
Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together. Set aside. Place all the ingredients in a bowl, mix in the dressing. Sprinkle the pistachios just before serving.
Green Fruit Salad
This refreshing salad incorporates many green fruits, including kiwi, which is high in Vitamin C and antioxidants, and honeydew, which is a great source of folate (folic acid). This salad is best when made and served immediately.
1/2 honeydew, skin removed, seeded and cubed
2 golden delicious apples, cored, sliced into cubes
3 kiwis, peeled and sliced
1 cup of green grapes, seedless, sliced into halves
1 banana, peeled and sliced
Garnish with pomegranate seeds for color (optional)
2 lemons, juiced
1 tablespoon of honey
½ teaspoon chaat masala (optional)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon mint leaves julienne
Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together. Place all the fruits in a bowl, mix in the dressing, and serve.
Banana Flambé (Dessert)
This is an easy last minute dessert which will “wow” all your guests. Pineapple and mangoes can be substituted for bananas. The flambé comes from the alcohol used in the dessert. Alcohol free caramelized bananas are just as good.
4 ripe bananas, peeled, halved, cut lengthwise
3 tablespoons butter
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup orange juice
1/3 cup dark rum
2 tablespoons slivered almonds, for garnish
fresh mint leaves, for garnish
Serve with Vanilla Ice cream and chocolate syrup.
Place the butter and brown sugar in a flat pan and let melt. Add the sliced bananas and let the syrup coat all the pieces. Add the orange juice. Cautiously tilt the pan slightly towards the flame and add the rum. The syrup will flambé with blue flames. Let the alcohol cook off.
Serve the banana flambé with toasted almonds, a dollop of ice cream, garnish with mint leaves and drizzle this decadence with chocolate syrup.
|Praba Iyer teaches custom cooking classes around the Bay Area. She was Associate Chef at Green’s Restaurant, San Francisco. She also blogs about cooking at www.rocketbites.com|